Susannah Rodgers: a Newcastle graduate who took her sporting talents all the way to Paralympic glory. Under a recent scheme which involves interviewing Newcastle Alumni, I was able to have a quick chat with her, discussing her global success, local influence, and, which any student would be interested in, her favourite places to go to in Newcastle!
[Q] How would you describe your time at Newcastle University?
[A] It was a long time ago now! At the beginning, I found it a bit difficult. The first two years were not easy to navigate, but I think that’s normal for students; moving away from home for the first time, and a lot going on with my family, meant it was a tough two years. But I really enjoyed my course and that kept me going, I did my year abroad in 3 countries and that really changed things. I enjoyed that year away and doing something different, so that was my favourite year at University. I’m still in touch with some of the students I was there with as well, so it’s all about making friends really.
[Q]Very nice, and can you remember some of the best places you used to go to when in the city? Both during the day and at night?
[A] I remember going to one place, I can’t remember what it was called now, some kind of beach place which had a foam shark suspended from the ceiling. I don’t know if that exists anymore, I think it was called ‘Baja’. There was also a place which had a revolving dance floor, which was quite fun when you were, lets say, under the influence. In terms of Newcastle as a place, I used to regularly go to the coast and the beach. I’d go there for a bit of a breather if I wanted to get out of the city, and the beach is lovely and clean. It’s just a shame that it was so cold or I would’ve gone for a swim!
[Q] - Moving on to your professional career, how would you describe the feeling of representing your country?
[A] - You can’t describe it with words. It’s such an honour, especially the Paralympic games. I mean, I represented my country at world level and European level, but when you go to the games it’s on a whole other scale and everyone is watching. Especially the home games in London, that was very special. I still sort of remember it with a lot of happy memories. And then Rio was very different, but I still felt just as proud. It’s one thing if you get to stand on the podium but to hear the national anthem is something else.
[Me] - Yeah I was going to say, it must be massive to actually hear the national anthem while standing there.
[Susanna] - Yeah it definitely is, and I got that at Rio. On my own. On the podium. It’s very special. And it’s over so quickly you have literally one minute, but it feels like five seconds because it goes so quickly, and then that moment is gone. You try to make yourself aware of what’s going on but then you’re in such a daze you can’t believe it actually happened.
[Me] - Well fingers crossed I get to experience something similar to that
[Susanna] - [laughing] Well yeah, good luck! Are you an athlete or?
[Me] - Well I can’t say I am, I prefer writing about sports than taking part in it.
[Susanna] - Well you could go to the games as a journalist, you never know!
[Q] - So, what projects around sports are you currently involved in?
[A] - Well, I work part time at the British Paralympic association, so I’m still involved with Paralympic sports on the communication side. I work with our comms team around campaigns on the games and how to raise awareness for them. Equally, I’m involved in a charity swimming club in London, so I’m still actively involved. And even though I’m retired from sport, I still regularly swim, because even though I’m not competing I still like to stay active.
[Q] - Do you ever think you’d be involved with Newcastle University swimming?
[A] - Well, I’ve never been asked to, but If I was in the area and they needed some help I’d definitely try to.
[Q] - How would you encourage non-swimmers to get involved with swimming?
[A] - I think the best thing is, you know, if you’ve never swam before then you should go to a swimming class with a swim teacher, usually at your local leisure facilities. If you are a swimmer already and you want to get more involved, then going through the Uni will encourage you to reach a higher level. That’s how I started out, at the University, then I did a bit of training locally with a disability club. I’d say it’s a very good social thing. I’ve got a lot of friends I’ve met through swimming.
[Q] - If you could’ve given yourself any advice before becoming a professional, what would It have been?
[A] - I didn’t think I would [become a professional] really, so If I could’ve given myself any advice I would’ve started a bit sooner, maybe in school, rather than a bit later. I possibly would’ve started a bit earlier because I might’ve been able to go on longer. I started a bit late so I retired because, well, I was getting too old for it! Things happen for a reason, so you have to let life take its course. I wouldn't change it even If I could go back.
[Me] - Very good advice. Well, thank you very much for the interview and I hope you have a lovely day.